First Drive: Volkswagen up! Black
Sector: City Car Price: £11,305 Fuel: 60.1mpg CO2: 108g/km
I caught a bit of The Matrix on TV the other night. As a teenager in the late Nineties, this film was a 136-minute snapshot into everything that was cool in music, style and technology at the time, but which lost its momentum with a couple of dire sequels.
I was also the right age to appreciate the Volkswagen Lupo when it was launched. Back then, small cars could be a bit wimpy and while the Lupo wasn’t the first line in masculinity, it had some respectable street cred as a first car. It’s hung onto that desirability even now, with the ultra-efficient diesels and the GTI trading hands for good money.
But, like The Matrix, Volkswagen didn’t really manage to get under people’s skin with the follow-up. The Fox felt like a step backwards in every way, and left the Lupo generation a bit cold.
Technically the up! didn’t have to try too hard to be an improvement – but it has. Like the Lupo, it’s a stylish little car that doesn’t shed credibility for practicality. It’s properly built, the square back end fits fully grown adults, and in chrome-embellished up! Black spec it’s not short of equipment. Intuitive satellite navigation, chunky alloy wheels and even heated seats are included as standard.
It’s also a giggle to drive. The up! Black, and near identical up! White, get the more powerful 75bhp three-cylinder engine, which is lively and rumbly enough to be entertaining, but also thrifty in its running costs.
So Volkswagen has finally put some joy back into its small car offering with the up! and is deservedly getting universal praise for its newcomer. The only shame is that they opted for dodgy punctuation instead of putting an L and an O either side of that familiar badge typeface.
Chic, frugal and very practical, the up! doesn’t feel like much of a downgrade from its larger siblings in this top spec version. There are cheaper-looking options on sale, but with a hot GT version on the way as a halo model and that badge on the bonnet, this puts Volkswagen back on the map.